Thursday, July 21, 2011

Missouri Wine Festival: A Sweet And Sultry Corker Of A Fest

Hi all-my humblest apologies for being a slothful blogger this month. I'm unclear as to the reason, but if its possible for bloggers to get writer's block, I may be experiencing it. I seem to be feeling a bit less ambitious than usual. Not that I haven't had inspiration; life provides that on a daily basis. I took full advantage of that in June and posted like a mad fool (and the blog read like it had been written by one at times), resulting in my biggest single month of blog traffic yet. The intelligent response to that would have been to take full advantage of the traffic and keep pumping out the posts, but then no one accused me of being the brightest bulb in the box, did they? I think I'll just blame it on the relentless heat wave causing my already addled brain to bake to a somewhat burnt state.

Allow me to update you quickly on our friend Carolyn as many of you have asked about her and then I'll move on to the Fest. Carolyn was moved to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, NE as it is one of the leading rehab hospitals specializing in traumatic brain injury in the country. She's been there about a week and continues to make progress. We friends of Carolyn and Jim are, of course, supportive of whatever is best for our great lady but somewhat stymied by the fact that we cannot descend en masse to whatever local facility she would be residing in and provide emotional support. Jim continues to write his CaringBridge journal recounting the latest news in the journey with Carolyn's recovery and it remains a riveting read. Jim is definitely feeling the miles away from KC as most of us have to work through the week and can't be at the hospital regularly. We are going to do what we can to give Jim a break on the weekends and Keith and I are heading to Lincoln for our shift next weekend. Keep those thoughts and prayers coming.

As to this year's Missouri Wine Fest, set at the venerable Elms Resort and Spa in Excelsior Springs and hosted by the Downtown Excelsior Partnership (the director of which is the K-Man himself), it was a corker in every way. Keith literally sweated out the details in the course of last week; fretting over which way the weather was weaving. The post I wrote on last year's Wine Fest was titled Steamy Sipping and while a success, indeed, it was an uncomfortably hot day. This year's forecast finally settled on the Heat Wave of 2011 continuing its wickedly wilting ways and this year, Eric, the GM of the Elms graciously allowed us to move much of the Fest inside. Last year, the Elms had two weddings happening simultaneously with the Fest and moving anything inside would have been fact, much of the day was a serious logistical challenge as it was. This year, thankfully, only one of the ballrooms was occupied so we were able to move the Fest into a combination of the Regent Ballroom, the pool patio and the lobby. Some valiant vendors remained outside along with the musicians who were moved to a stage off of the pool patio. The vendors, artists, craftsmen, chefs and musicians were mostly grateful to get out of the worst of the heat and adapted to new locales and space constrictions. It was most excellent to have our friends Cress and TJ working with us the entire day. Cress manned the door and acted as Master Concierge, guiding everyone to their destinations and TJ essentially ran the Registration booth like a well-oiled machine throughout.

I'm most excited to report that despite the oppressive heat, the Fest enjoyed massive success this year. More than 700 people passed through the Fest and we enjoyed loads of compliments about it; including many inquiries about going ahead to book next year's event. We had 12 wineries this year and they were a marvelous mix of Fest favorites (Stone Hill, St. James, Baltimore Bend and the always lovely Lee and Laura from Wenwood), local wine heroes Fence Stile and Van Till Farms and new, exciting blood such as Serenity Valley. In fact, Serenity Valley became quite the revelation....their homemade bellinis were a hit and their Spring Blossoms Green Apple Riesling enjoyed bountiful buzz all day. Many folks, from members of our own family to Fest attendees were raving about this local vino and after a taste, I quite enjoyed it myself. Admittedly, I cringe a bit in regards to a wine that sounds flavored as I fear that it may be overpoweringly sweet but this was a welcome surprise: light, crisp with a clean, refreshing finish. Very nice.

Speaking of the family folk, it was a distinct pleasure to share in the Fest with Keith's family. K's mom Helen, Aunt Ruthie, sis Kim, cousin Jill and cousin-in-law Anne all spent the weekend at the hotel and brought some of my favorite wild women: Michelle and Sarah and Sarah's Mom Carol. I'd written about Michelle and Sarah before and they, thankfully, continue to be as outrageous as ever. They took advantage of much of the Festival fun including the rocking pool scene outdoors as well as joining me for the cooking demos happening downstairs in the Amphitheatre. The demos were a kick and a featured a standing-room only crowd for each. Mark Prece, executive chef of the spankin' new Liberty HyVee led the demos with a fabulous-looking dish of ginormous shrimp made with artichoke pasta and a lemon-cream sauce. During the creation of this dish; audience participation bordered on vintage Emeril....rapturous oohs and ahs accompanied every move Chef Pence made. The dish certainly looked marvelous but if the good chef had said "Bam!" I think some of his wine-fueled audience may have spontaneously combusted as if they had just found out that they were attending an Oprah's Favorite Things telecast. Enthusiasm's a good thing, though, right? I rejoined the lively ladies for dinner at Ventana later that evening and managed to enjoy the Thai salad and evening special of spinach fettuccine mixed with red pepper flakes, broccoli and a wine-garlic sauce despite Sarah's many attempts to have me spitting my food across the restaurant in reaction to her jaw-dropping humor; especially when she spoke of her own "cookies" (as in the ones in her shirt) baking in the high heat. Gadzooks, girls, you are the funniest broads I've had dinner with in many a moon.

I cannot let this post conclude without mention of the many artists and craftsmen displaying their impressive wares throughout the day. Kathleen and Molly of Gallery Off Broadway rocked the house with their most excellent display space and generated a lot of excitement for their always-a-good-time Corkscrews and Canvases classes. Chef Amber DiGiovanni displayed her scrumptious hand-rolled Italian dinner rolls and baked goods. Chef Amber is a personal chef and a cookbook author and she conducted some tres popular cooking demos herself. I squired the charming Jul Tate; Promotions Director for 102.1 FM Alice around the festivities and we arrived at one of Chef Amber's demos just in time for her to plug my blog....thanks, Chef. Thumbs up also to the very tasty Jailhouse Jalapeno Brew, a sweet jalapeno mustard that also makes for a yummy dip or marinade. I also cannot go without giving some big ups to Daphne of Willow Spring Mercantile who not only held down two booths for both The Merc and Blumenhof Winery but was also the beautiful mind behind the Fest's musical lineup. This year's performances were as sizzling as the temps outside and included Keota, Billy Beale, The James Ward Band and Miss Major and Her Minor Mood Swings.

The Missouri Wine Festival made for a thoroughly entertaining day; packed with delicious food, wonderful wines, fabulous art, terrific tunes and an interestingly dyed doggie. Thank you, DEP and the Elms, for a fantastic Fest.


Lisa Mandina said...

Sounds like a lot of fun! I don't really like wine that much, but for some reason I love wine tasting. I like to hear what I'm supposed to taste in the wine, and then try it with the type of food it says it goes with. Love that Wines by Jennifer in Parkville.
As for the writer's block. I feel that way sometimes, but usually it's because I'm so busy I don't have time to blog, or I haven't been able to finish a book yet to blog about because I'm so busy.

Confounded Cook said...

I love Wines by Jennifer too, Lisa! Whenever I'm going to a function and am unsure of what wine to bring, they are my go-to place!

Kim Lorentz said...

The food, wine and company of friends and family could not have been better. Thanks so much!

Don Blankenship said...

The Missouri Wine Festival, now in its 6th year, brings together Missouri wineries, artists and crafters along with great musicians for a relaxing .Many of Missouri's top wineries are just a short drive away. Another option, a little closer to home, is the 26th annual Missouri Winefest.
Don Blankenship

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